A Shallow Queen in the Court


Although Queen Gertrude cares about Hamlet, she places reverence, attention, and love more highly than her son. The Queen’s need for people’s reverence, attention, and love above all else can be seen through the dialogue of her newly wedded husband, King Claudius. For example, the dialogue of Queen Gertrude and King Claudius regarding the summoning of Hamlet’s friends illustrates Queen Gertrude’s priorities.

KING. Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.

QUEEN. Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
   And I beseech you instantly to visit

   My too much changed son. Go, some of you,

   And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is. (The Tragedy of    Hamlet, Prince of Denmark act 2. scene 2. lines 33-37)

As seen in the dialogue, Queen Gertrude allows power, love, and attention from her newly found lover to cloud her judgment and concern for her child, Prince Hamlet; this can be seen as she nearly mirrors the repeating of King Claudius’s statement. However, it is interesting to note that she reverses the order of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s names in addition to calling Rosencrantz gentle instead of Guildenstern. While this nearly identical line may be interpreted as a diplomatic change to address the other individual present, it is followed directly with the statement of concern regarding her son. Even though this statement is a direct plea for help, King Claudius had already said his farewells to the two men, and, thus, Queen Gertrude must say farewell as well in order to remain in good graces with the new king. Although the Queen could have subverted her husband to further discuss Prince Hamlet, she knew King Claudius’s and the kingdom’s love and attention would be at stake by demanding more from Hamlet’s friends. While a parent deciding to side with their spouse instead of their child is not an alien concept, it presents a nefarious situation, especially when a spouse is too weak to spot danger on the horizon.

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2 comments

  1. I cannot agree more with you view! I would not say that Gertrude is a selfish person due to her strong desire for love and status. Instead, I would rather see her as a weak person. I like how you interpret her repeating the statement of Claudius. I feel like she is just a queen who is too afraid of losing her crown on her head. This also makes me think of the power of males and females were so different and unequal in the past. The queen of a country actually did not have much power on politics and the kingdom. Maybe a queen is just a model of women in the country so that’s why Gertrude had to follow what Claudius did and said and stopped the conversation about her seemed-to-be-insane son. Another question on my mind is that: As a mother, but not the queen of a country, did Gertrude think that Hamlet is insane? So far in the text, I did not see any scenes involving a conversation only between Hamlet and Gertrude. Maybe we can look more in-depth if there is a mother-son confession.

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